The founder and pastor of the almost universally reviled Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps Sr., is close to death, per his estranged son. Also, he got kicked out of his own church.
Nathan Phelps, who left the church soon after his 18th birthday and has been sharply critical of its actions in the decades since, posted on Facebook that his father, who is 84 years old, "is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas."
A spokesman for the church downplayed the seriousness of Phelps' condition to the AP, saying: "I can tell you that Fred Phelps is having some health problems. He’s an old man, and old people get health problems." He did confirm to the Topeka Capital-Journal that Phelps was in hospice.
Nathan also revealed that his father was excommunicated in August 2013. This was confirmed by another estranged son, Mark. The spokesman refused to comment on this to the Capital-Journal, saying: "We don't owe any talk to you about that." So it's not confirmed, but if it ends up being true that the people Phelps brought up to love with conditions and hate without reservation turned against him: ha, ha, ha.
Given Phelps' notoriety as the man who founded a church so hateful that even the KKK protested it, you can imagine the glee many are taking at the news of his impending death, creating a #FredPhelpsLastWords hashtag and preparing their "God Hates Freds" signs. As for the Westboro Baptist Church, it's been active on social media today, announcing upcoming protests and criticizing St. Patrick's Day but not mentioning Fred Phelps at all.
You don't ever want to be happy that someone is dead (or about to be), even when that person is responsible for the pain of so many others, often at the most vulnerable moments. But I wouldn't mind it if all the people whose loved one's funerals were protested by the Westboro Baptist Church got together and protested his. Or maybe the Westboro Baptist Church can protest one of their own's funerals just to see how it feels.
The best outcome, though, would be that they have their funeral without anyone bothering them at all. What makes the Westboro Baptist Church so terrible is its parishioners' delight in taking actions that the rest of us care too much about our fellow man to do. No point in sinking to their level now.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.